Superfans in Cosplay Having the Best Time: “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical”

Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company Adapted from the book, The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan  Book by Joe Tracz Music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki Directed by Stephen Brackett Music direction by Wiley DeWeese Choreography by Patrick McCollum Fight direction by Rod Kinter New puppetry design by AchesonWalsh Design Studios July 17 – 28, 2019 Huntington Avenue Theatre 264 Huntington Ave Boston, MA The Huntington on Facebook Critique by Kitty Drexel (Boston) Saturday afternoon’s performance of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical was an event for superfans and their friends. Children in Camp Half-Blood t-shirts and their adults congregated to the Huntington Theatre to watch this musical about modern day children of Greek gods. It’s not a production for everyone; it’s specifically written for devotees to the Rick Riordan book. Theatre-lovers will appreciate the ingenuity of the design team but they should attend knowing that this musical isn’t for them; It’s for fans in their childhood years. A summary of Riordan’s novel is HERE. To paraphrase wildly, it’s about how the half-human children of the Greek gods come to terms with their absentee parents through quests. The musical is a close adaptation of the book; it tackles many of the prevailing themes while skipping over the technically impossible-to-stage scenes (such as the ones at the Hoover Dam). Percy Jackson hits all of the major milestones but in an abbreviated way; this rock musical rings in at 150 minutes. The fight direction and other choreography is appropriate for children’s theatre: it safely communicates action sequences without depicting physical harm on another person. The overall production value is high. The prop designers are creative with their designs; Rolls of toilet paper are strategically employed to mimic Percy’s water-wielding talents; puppetry is skillfully employed to depict the furies and the minotaur. The work is clever enough to appeal to children and adults alike. The cast delivers a tight performance. Izzy Figueroa delights as both Grover and the cantankerous Mr. D. Ryan Knowles tackles a broad range of characters with sprightly vocal flexibility and verve. Jalynn Steele is a compassionate mother, and rocked the stage singing “D.O.A.” as Charon. The enthusiastic shouting from the audience tells anyone in hearing distance that Chris McCarrell plays the role of Percy Jackson with great authenticity. He inspired many hoots from children. He’s goofy and compassionate in his portrayal. Audience members with light and sound sensitivities should be aware that bright lightning and loud thunder effects are used throughout this production. The lights are turned onto the audience at several points and may cause light blindness (or, in my case, unintentionally exacerbate a weather-induced migraine. (I’m fine.)). The thunder effect alarmed a few young children and surprised several adults at the performance. The effects are intended to heighten the show experience. Should your party have sensitivities, please prepare accordingly. The Lightning Thief’s depiction of Chiron is as ablist on the stage as it is in the book. Chiron uses a wheelchair as a disguise and discards it when he no longer needs it. The wheelchair is then repurposed as a bus in the stage version and used to pull other set pieces. A wheelchair is an expensive medical device that should be treated with respect. Tracz and Rokicki heavily edited Riordan’s book to get it to the stage; it is simple enough to disinclude wheelchair use with a note on ablism. Puppetry designers AchesonWalsh Studious ingeniously made monsters appear from thin air. Their talents might be used to create a centaur. The costume design gave Grover a satyr’s legs. Something similar could have been used for Chiron’s false disability. The production crew had other options and chose ablism instead. This is no slight on Knowles whose performance was flawless. I will never begrudge an actor a gig when the ultimate decision is made by the creative crew. After the show, my companion and I had the great fortune to chat with two effusive superfans at Cafe Bene on Mass Ave. These young women in their early twenties gushed with joy about the musical when they discovered we had attended the same performance. I asked if they had enjoyed themselves. They said with fondness that the books were their childhood, that the musical is much better than the movies. These young women knew which moments of the musical directly quoted the first book and which moments were stolen from later books. They appreciated the accuracy of the musical. They were exceedingly happy with their experience at the Huntington Theatre. My companion and I are aware that we old fogeys aren’t the intended audience for The Lightning Thief. They two young women who shared a conversation with us over coffee are. They had a great time – so great that, at the time of our conversation, they were considering attending again to meet the stars by the stage door after the show. Don’t it from me. Take it from them: super fans who loved the books (but hated the movies) will love The Lightning Thief.
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